Awful phone coverage at home? Wi-Fi to the rescue

Second, until recently, operators were distracted by the promise of femtocells. Only a year or two ago, many in the industry believed we would see a day where most homes would have a femtocell providing high quality mobile coverage and enhanced services.

However, with the technical and economic realities of femtocells now understood and being refocused toward the enterprise market, operators are back to looking at more scalable approaches for the mass consumer market.

Third, it wasn't until the last year or so that operators have even been capable of offering IP based voice services. The vast majority of mobile voice services used today are running off of 'circuit' based core voice networks.

As operators are preparing to move to VoLTE, they are only now putting in place the core network equipment that will enable the delivery of mobile voice services over IP networks.

Last is consumer behaviour itself. The rise in the use of smartphones and home Wi-Fi has been dramatic, and steep. According to our recent survey, 89 percent of survey respondents with poor-to-no mobile voice coverage at home were also smartphone owners that have already configured their phone to connect automatically to a home Wi-Fi network.

So the consumer is now very ready!

TRP: Why do consumers need to wait for operators to get on-board, why can't they download an app that does it automatically?

KK: That's a great question as many consumers are not waiting for the mobile operators to get on-board. Many are downloading over-the-top (OTT) VoIP apps such as Skype and Viber and it's starting to become a real headache for the operators.

But none of these OTT services enable the user to user their standard mobile voice and SMS/MMS services over Wi-Fi, where they are using their normal mobile telephone number to make and receive calls or send and receive texts.

So, none of those apps are solving the coverage challenge for the mobile services that users are actually paying for.

TRP: Will Wi-Fi calling customers benefit from free minutes and free roaming (when using Wi-Fi to connect)?

KK: The answer to that question will vary by region and by operator. For example, in the U.S., most service plans include "all you can eat" voice and SMS services as part of a mobile data plan.

So, effectively all minutes whether over the macro network or via Wi-Fi are not billed. However, as far as roaming, I believe most operators will be able to provide travellers with a significant benefit where when the subscriber is connected to Wi-Fi, anywhere in the world, they will be charged for that call as if they were in their home country.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.